Friday, 17 September 2021

Day 550 of self-isolation - Sir Clive Sinclair

Sir Clive Sinclair

Died aged 81.

He had many achievements, including the ZX80 and ZX81, but his most significant computer was the Sinclair Spectrum. I had one, in the early 80s, and it was great fun, and it led me to the IBM PC. I also had a Z88 (I still have that). A brilliant portable computer with an 8 line by 80 character screen, and a built-in word processor and spreadsheet.

He also made an electric bike (the Zike) which was a commercial failure. And an add-on for an ordinary bike that powered the rear wheel with a friction drive. And the C5, which looked like a little car, but was actually a recumbent electric bicycle, and was another commercial flop.

The Spectrum is still alive, via emulators and keen collectors and can be bought on eBay.

I was given a Spectrum by a friend, who thought I could make more use of it than he did. He was right - I dived enthusiastically into the bits and bytes, and found a friend, Mike, who was a fellow enthusiast, and we'd meet for lunch and talk about what we were doing.

One day, Mike told me that he had something even better in his office, and we went there so he could show me. It was an IBM PC running Lotus 123, and he'd set up a complicated model of something, and he showed me how if he changed this or that, the consequences could be seen. As his hands flew over the keyboard, I realised that my friend Mike, who was in no way a programmer, had written a program as a 123 spreadsheet. And I had a blinding flash of inspiration. Everyone would want one of these, because it meant liberation from the "computer department" who usually say "Yes, we can do that, but you have to write a specification for us to follow, we can't start it for the next six months, and it'll take us another six months to complete".

So  I knew that I had to get one. Because the Mikes of this world were going to need support, and they wouldn't get it from the computer departments, who actually loathed micro computers (one of them said to me "if everyone has one of these, they won't need us").

And that's how I became the IBM PC guru of the UK.


Thursday, 16 September 2021

Day 549 of self-isolation - 200


Today I weighed in at 14 stone, 4 pounds, which is the glorious milestone of 200 pounds.

I started about 18 months ago at around 250, so I've shed about a fifth. 50 pounds is what one of my electric bicycles weighs, so I'd been dragging that around with me everywhere.

I wish I could say that I feel bouncy and light, but the back problem hasn't gone away yet, although it is improving slowly. But before the back problem developed, I was fine at running up stairs two at a time - now I can barely stagger one by one.

But the back is improving, and I'm optimistic about the future, both in terms of back pain and weight loss.


Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Day 548 of self-isolation - The few

Never was so much owed by so many to so few
Today is the 81st anniversary of the Battle of Britain, where Britain stood alone against the Nazi aggressors, and defeated them in the skies over our islands, using a well-organised system of defence with the newly-invented radar at the front line.
Today we are fighting a different battle - against Covid-19.

And we have a well-organised system of defence with the newly-invented weapon against the enemy - the vaccine.
On May 10, 1940 Churchill said “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
That wasn't quite right. We had radar, and the RAF. He also said "You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival."
Strangely, in America many of them don't want to take the vaccine. They'd rather take a horse deworming medicine. Americans, eh? But Americans are wll known for trying all the wrong things first.


Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Day 547 of self-isolation - Jabs for teens

Jabs for teens

The UK's chief medical officers say that children aged 12 to 15 should get a dose of Covid vaccine. This is good, and brings us into line with what many other countries are doing.

But ministers still need to make a decision. When they do, it'll be the Pfizer vaccine, probably administered at schools.

I had myocarditis myself, a long time ago. It manifested as an intense pain  in my left elbow; which means "heart problem". So the whisked me off to hospital in case it was somethnig really bad, and I lay there for a week, reading books. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the linig of your heart. 

It went away without any treatment, and I was released, but for several weeks there was a huge gap between what I thought I ought to be able to do (for example, walk half a mile), and what I could actually do. I don't think there were any long term effects, except now I know what a heart attack might feel like.

Monday, 13 September 2021

Day 546 of self-isolation - No trip to London

No trip to London

Not today - my back is still knotted up. And because of that, I'm getting waitress service - it's really painful for me to stagger downstairs.

Maybe next Sunday.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Day 545 of self-isolation - Awfulness in America

Awfulness in America

In America, the daily death toll has reached over 2000 in one day. But the truth is, because of the strange reporting system in Florida (and other states, as explained in this blog recently), the true number is at least 500 more.

How do we know this?

Because every day, the number of new deaths that day is reported, but the total number of deaths increases by several hundred more than the number of new deaths. This is because previous days figures are being revised upwards, by several hundred. It makes a data analyst want to scream.

So, for example, Florida is reporting zero deaths for Thursday and Friday, which looks very good when you're assessing the state of the pandemic. But death does not take a holiday, and the coffins are still being filled. The difference that their way of reporting makes, is that we don't know how many coffins are filled until a week or two later.

It's almost as if the politicians of Florida are in the side of the virus, but don't want people to know how bad things are.

America is also tearing itself apart over the concept of mandatory vaccines. Actually, vaccines have been mandatory for many people for a very long time. You can't send a child to public school, unless they've had all their shots.

And part of America has turned from malaria medicine (Hydroxychloroquine) to horse dewormer (Ivermectin), in a desperate attempt to avoid taking one of the vaccines that has been tried, tested and fully approved by the FDA, and is proven to provide a major boost to the immune system in its fight against Covid. Nearly all the people in the Covid wards in American hospitals are unvaccinated. 

How did this happen? The roots of this disaster are in an educational system that has failed, a healthcare system that has failed and a large population of faith-based wishful thinkers.

Churchill said "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else." But there's lots of half-baked folk remedies that they can try.

 And it's not clear that they will eventually do the right thing.


Saturday, 11 September 2021

Day 544 of self-isolation - NS&I


I tried to change a NS&I fixed interest bond so that it would be cashed in at the end of the period. The default is to roll it on, but the interest rate is a desultory 0.5%, which is ridiculous.

So I logged in to the web site and tried to change the maturity option, but it wouldn't let me. This was on September 1, 9 days before maturity. So I phoned them on 08085 007 007. They told me that I couldn't change anything because there was a security lock on the account, which is applied when there isn't much activity on the account. 

Well, it's a long term savings account, so there wouldn't be much activity.  And then they removed the security block.

But I still couldn't make the change to the maturity options. So I phoned them again.

This went on and on until the 7th of September, at which point I still couldn't make the change, and so I raised a formal complaint.

It turned out that when they put it all online, they made some mistake with that account.

So on the 8th. they phoned me, but the call was from a number I didn't recognise, and the call got dropped. And by the time I called them again, it was 16:10 and the relevant caller had gone home.

I called again on the ninth. Still no luck.

On the tenth, I got lucky. I was able to speak to the right person, and he told me that the bond has matured, and cashed in, with the money going to my bank account.

He also told me that my complaint had been upheld, and I've been given £50 in compensation.

Which goes to show, when a major organisation makes a major blunder, it's worth making a formal complaint.

And my back is still giving me major grief.